Vienna’s old bus/tram stop sign on the left and new sign on the right.
UPDATE: 14 January 2021
Of course the Wiener Linien, the public transport company that makes Vienna the world’s most livable city, has very good reasons for the new signs. (I should have known given the overall excellent quality of the Wiener Linien public information.) I just saw a video about the Wiener Linien’s new signs on LinkedIn that describes their advantages:
Signs designed with strong involvement of accessibility community;
Barrier free (type size, contrast, audio information, big red post);
Video displays that provide route information, schedules, transfer points, walking distances, changeable with an accessible button;
Information consistent with the WienMobil Vienna multimodal trip planning app
As they say at the end of the video, the new signs provide more information, more comfort and are more barrier free. Again, the Wiener Linien shows why they are the leader in all things public transport. I can always see the old signs in the wonderful public transport museum Remise Vienna transport history museum.
The Viennese have a reputation in Austria of being grumpy (“grantig” in German). They are also, justifiably in many cases given the city’s beautiful historic buildings, parks and public spaces, not particularly enamored with change.
After living here 13+ years maybe I’m finally becoming Viennese. I’m really grantig about the new signs being used to designate bus and tram stops (Haltestelle).
BusMeister game bus stop improvements panel.
The old signs are simple, low tech, instantly recognisable, useful (most have attached garbage cans as shown in the photo) and clear. Note how the old tram signs are oval and outlined in red while the bus signs are half-oval and outlined in blue. I was surprised that the game designers who created my BusMeister game actually knew this difference and incorporated the half-oval signs into the game. And, of course, the old low-tech signs are also consistent with Vienna’s historic feel.
The new signs just seem blocky (in contrast to the old signs’ simple elegance). Sure they include the real time display (which is on a separate pole at many stops with the old signs), they clearly show the stop name, and they use more up-to-date fonts, icons and corporate design. But, hey, I’ve become old fashioned.
There’s no question in my mind that the Wiener Linien (Vienna’s public transport company) is the finest public transport operator in the world, but I just wish they would keep the old signs!
Andy and one of Vienna’s great pedestrian information maps on the corner of Mariahilfestrasse and Kaiserstrasse in Vienna.
This year I’ve been getting more involved in local transport planning politics – reminding me of my days as a leader in San Francisco’s environmental movement.
In October I had an idea for people to meet in the morning and take a walk together before work: Walk to (home) work. I submitted the idea to Agenda Neubau, a city district supported effort to encourage residents to get involved in neighbourhood planning (they provide some professional advisors, organisational resources and a small budget for projects), and it was accepted. We were even given a budget for small treats after the walks.
We had three walks before the latest Covid-19 lockdown meant we could not meet and walk together any longer. Now we are walking alone and sending photos to the Agenda Neubau. We’ll organise a group walk after the lockdown and have a nice breakfast together to make up for all the missed treats.
Vienna is famous for its cafes and coffeehouse culture. Like many cities that developed rapidly in the late 1800s apartments in Vienna were small and people needed space. Cafes provided meals, places to meet, places to read newspapers and to be “at home”. Many cities lost this cafe culture over the years, but, as with many things in Vienna, cafes lived long enough to come back into fashion.
Traditional Viennese cafes are really more like small neighbourhood restaurants that serve (many types) coffee but also warm meals. Only recently modern cafes have been opening that focus especially on coffee quality (the actual coffee in some Viennese coffeehouses is terrible!) and a limited menu. These modern cafes resemble Starbucks, which, one must admit, brought coffeehouse culture back into fashion, at least the part about being a place to hang out.
The cafes I list below are ones I have visited and enjoyed. Everyone in Vienna has their own favourites. Cafes are listed in three groups: grand Ringstrasse cafes, historic neighbourhood cafes, and modern cafes. My key criteria are good people (although be warned, proper manners for a Viennese coffeehouse waiter borders on rudeness to customers), good food – often homemade, fair prices, history and being part of the neighbourhood.
Grand Ringstrasse Cafes
The Ringstrasse is a boulevard built on the site of Vienna’s former walls in the 1860s. It’s one of the pioneering projects in modern city planning and if you are interested in learning more about it see my Ringstrasse Walking Tour.
In the late 1800s the Ringstrasse became the place to go in Vienna. People walking, people in fine carriages, in short, people seeing and being seen. There were palaces and important businesses, cultural institutions like the State Opera and Theater, and government buildings like the national Parliament and Vienna city hall. And, of course cafes. These cafes – because they were stages for their guests – were large, elegant and bright. At their peak there were over 30 grand cafes on the Ringstrasse. Today there are only a handful but they are well worth visiting to experience this age.
All these cafes serve traditional Viennese food, have special lunch menus, make their own cakes and pastries, have long opening hours, and waiters in tuxedos. Don’t forget to make reservations – even for breakfast!
Cafe Pruckel – Ringstrasse at Dr. Karl Lueger Platz. Bright, large rooms, modern, great cultural program. Arty crowd. U-3 Stubenring.
Cafe Schwartzenburg – Ringstrasse at Schwartzenbergplatz. Traditional wood, several medium-sized rooms, nice outdoor seating. People on business lunches.
Cafe Landmann – Ringstrasse at Burgtheater. Traditional wood, several medium-sized rooms, nice outdoor seating, Was Freud’s regular cafe. High society.
Cafe Eiles – Josefstaederstrasse at Landesgerichtestrasse. OK, not actually on the Ringstrasse, but a grand cafe from the same age in the Ringstrasse redevelopment area. Large room with high ceilings, tastefully renovated in recent years. Mixed crowd including government workers. My regular cafe when we were moving here.
Cafe Eiles 2012
Coffee arrives at Cafe Sperl.
Newspapers at Cafe Braunerhof – 2012
These are neighbourhood cafes many of which are from the golden age of cafes. Of course there are hundreds of cafes in Viennese neighbourhoods, that’s the idea after all – a cafe for everyone, so these are only a few I happen to know, but they are all great.
Cafe Sperl – Gumpendorferstrasse. In all the guidebooks but still with local flair. Historic. Great cakes.
Cafe Braunerhof – Stallburggasse (city centre); small, historic, very traditional.
Cafe Florianihof interior
Cafe Hummel Night
Modern cafes are places that serve the same functions as the original Viennese cafes (an extended living room) but in a modern setting and/or with a more modern take on food and drink (e.g., high quality coffee). Of course the grand and traditional cafes are also serving modern food and drink today, but their history makes them special.
Why Crowdsourcing Often Leads to Bad Ideas by Oguz A. Acar in the Harvard Business Review, outlining some of his crowdsourcing research; from the article: “In practice, however, most crowdsourcing initiatives end up with an overwhelming amount of useless ideas.” Read Acar’s critic and improvement suggestions.
Governing by Video Game by Darren Loucaides in Medium, from the article: Cities across the United States are exploring online games as a way of engaging citizens. But being a citizen isn’t the same thing as being a gamer.
My publications about using crowdsourcing in transport are available on my website andynash.com.
Two of my papers were accepted for the 2020 TRB Annual Meeting:
Reducing Delays on High-density Railway Lines: Crossrail Case Study
Giorgio Medeossi and Andrew Nash – Monday January 13 – 10:15 AM- 12:00 PM – Convention Center, 144A
The paper describes development of a new timetable designed to reduce delays on the existing Shenfield-London high density regional rail line. The project combined detailed railway operational data with Oyster Card data to identify the root cause of delays and develop timetable improvements. The alternative timetable was tested and refined using stochastic simulation. The new timetable was placed in service during 2016 and led to a significant reduction in delays: punctuality within 5-minutes of scheduled arrival time increased by 6.2% during the most critical hour of the morning peak period.
A Framework for Capturing the Business Benefits of Railway Digitalization
Andrew Nash, Felix Laube and Samuel Roos – Tuesday January 14 – 1:30 PM – 3:15 PM – Convention Center, Hall A
This paper outlines a framework for changing railway systems and processes to help railways capture the full business benefits of digitalization. Economic research shows that businesses need to make fundamental changes to their systems and processes if they are to take full advantage of new technology. The slow implementation of digitally based signaling systems such as ETCS and PTC highlights the need for fundamental change in the railway industry to more aggressively implement new technology – and obtain the full benefits of this technology. The proposed framework integrates an improved and up-to-date understanding of customer needs with a much more efficient and customer-oriented production process. It is designed to make use of today’s powerful data collection, communications and analysis technologies rather than applying new technology to old processes. The proposed framework has been developed based on earlier research results and practical experience. The paper is intended to spur discussion.
Alan Bell has used machine learning to develop a program that analyses data from traffic cameras to identify blocked bus and bike lanes. He analysed a section of St. Nicholas Avenue in Manhattan and found that the bike lane was blocked 55% of the time and the bus stop was blocked 57% of the time between 7am and 7pm.
This is a great example of how people can use open source data to help develop data supporting sustainable transport. In this case it is clear that better enforcement and protected bike lanes are needed. Residents can take this data to government agencies and demand change.